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What is ‘philosophy’? Understandings of philosophy circulating in the literature on the teaching and learning of philosophy in schools

Authors:

Lynne Bowyer ,

The New Zealand Centre for Science & Citizenship, NZ
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Claire Amos,

The New Zealand Centre for Science & Citizenship, NZ
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Deborah Stevens

The New Zealand Centre for Science & Citizenship, NZ
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Abstract

This paper is based on a literature review of articles discussing the teaching and learning of philosophy in primary and secondary schools. The purpose of this review was to address two research questions:

What is philosophy?

What does philosophy do?

This paper addresses the first research question—What is philosophy?—by gathering together the various understandings of the word ‘philosophy’ circulating in the literature.

There are ten understandings of what philosophy is that have arisen from the literature: philosophy as a foundational concept; philosophy as thinking—a skill, a disposition, a practice; philosophy as method or process; philosophy as a tool or instrument; philosophy as a creative task; philosophy as inquiry; philosophy as search for truth; philosophy as non-dogmatic teaching and hence the emancipation of thought; philosophy as communal activity; philosophy as a way of life. These ten understandings have been consistent over time, from writing in the field in the 1970s through to the present day. Many commentators hold and work with multiple understandings of what philosophy is in their writing.

How to Cite: Bowyer, L., Amos, C. and Stevens, D., 2020. What is ‘philosophy’? Understandings of philosophy circulating in the literature on the teaching and learning of philosophy in schools. Journal of Philosophy in Schools, 7(1), pp.38–67. DOI: http://doi.org/10.46707/jps.v7i.108
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Published on 05 Jun 2020.
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